Urban Utilities Operator Melissa McGovern.
Urban Utilities Operator Melissa McGovern.

How flushing wipes is costing big money to clean up

IPSWICH residents are being urged to only flush the '3Ps' down the toilet with wipes clogging sewerage pump stations and treatment plants.

It comes after the Federal Court dismissed an appeal by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission this week in its case against Kimberly-Clark Australia Pty Ltd over its use of the word 'flushability' on its products.

It was ruled consumers were not mislead by the word on its Kleenex Cottonelle toilet wipes.

Urban Utilities spokeswoman Michelle Cull said it was a disappointing outcome, particularly as COVID-19 has resulted in a large increase of people flushing things they shouldn't be.

A record one-tonne rag ball, the same weight of a small car, was recently removed from the Bundamba Sewage Treatment Plant.

A wipe blockage at an Urban Utilities pump station
A wipe blockage at an Urban Utilities pump station

Plant manager Mandy Murchison she had never seen the daily volume of rag hit over a tonne in her 13 years working in wastewater treatment.

About 1200-tonnes of wipes are removed from Urban Utilities' sewerage network a year, which is the equivalent of 34 hippos.

"Unfortunately, we are continuing to see an increase of wipes clogging our sewerage pump stations and treatment plants during the COVID-19 pandemic," Ms Cull said.

"During the toilet paper shortage, we also saw a 35 per cent increase in blockages in sewer pipes caused by foreign objects, such as wipes and fat.

"We're not suggesting people stop using wipes. Just place them in the bin instead.

"In the meantime, we'll continue to encourage people to only flush the 3Ps - pee, poo and toilet paper.

"Just because something can be flushed, doesn't mean it should be. The sewerage network is not a rubbish bin and our sewers are designed to carry just that - sewage."

Urban Utilities will continue to work with the Water Industry Association of Australia and other utilities on the development of an Australian standard for products labelled as flushable.

It is expected to be finalised by the end of the year and Ms Cull said it will provide clear specifications to design products that are compatible with the sewerage network.

 

Urban Utilities spends more than $1 million a year clearing blockages from its sewers.

It spends nearly half a million dollars a year disposing and transporting rubbish to landfill from its pump stations and treatment plants.

Unlike toilet paper, which disintegrates quickly after it's flushed, wet wipes, paper towels and even tissues are made from stronger fibres which are designed to stop them from breaking apart.



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